Sunday, June 17, 2007

picking out people and knocking them down / resisting arrest as they're kicked on the ground

I linked a few days back to Andrew Dubber’s interview at Hometracked, and mentioned his downloadable free e-book, on the new industry, and ways to navigate such. Since then Andrew has found himself in the middle of quite some little Internet firestorm. It all started when he posted a link to a post on a site called Download Squad. The story had to do with a lawsuit a certain Ms. Del Cid of Florida is filing against the RIAA to counter an action the US industry body is taking against her.

The piece on Download Squad is worded as a perfectly straightforward news story with a few opinions thrown in there, the strongest being

The RIAA has been terrorizing many people who they knew didn't have anything to do with alleged copyright violations, including dead people, young children, and the elderly.

Which, I guess from the RIAA’s POV, is strong stuff, but really no more so than what is more less generally publicly perceived. The RIAA has been roundly criticised across the spectrum for the way it’s pursued downloaders, often very insignificant, and the merciless persecution of people who's lives would likely be ruined by the action.

Andrew’s blog’s primary focus is the way the new technology can be utilised to advantage by artists and labels, and a story like this is clearly highly relevant as the result of the suit could potentially be precedent setting. So he linked to the story.

However a certain Paul Birch, owner of an independent UK label, Revolver Records, took exception to the link and so began the astounding email discourse which can be found here. Mr Birch is also a board member of the IFPI…the international body representing the record industry.

The back and forth was gob smacking, Mr Birch, clearly a man of some standing in the UK’s industry was at times abusive, threatening, irrational and contradictory. But the upshot was that he gave the impression of an unpleasant bully threatening to shut Andrew down, and make a complaint to his employers simply because Andrew linked to a site making a comment, under the provisions, I guess, in the US, of the First Amendment. It was very ugly and unnecessary. And Andrew was never less than polite and completely professional in responses.

Mr Birch says, amongst other things:

I think that what is more desirable is to take down links from your site that promote this hatred of the recording Industry, because the assumption is that by linking to them that you support the extreme view heralded.


Andrew sent through, with Mr Birch’s permission, the conversation as a part of his regular blog email updates, and I received it on Saturday evening.

With 24 hours it had gone around the world, was highly placed on digg, had a thread on the US Industry forum, Velvet Rope, and had hit dozens of blogs.

Paul Birch was famous and for all the wrong reasons. He was, universally derided for both his stance and his nasty bullying; Andrew’s site crashed for 24 hours because of excess traffic and Mr Birch had given the original story brand new legs.

None of which seems surprising because looking at Revolver’s terribe website and their half baked My Space, they are truly luddites, dinosaurs…the world has passed them by. A major independent UK label which has virtually no web presence, and what there is includes a bunch of badly formatted links to various copyright issues. This guy doesn't understand the modern world, but he seems to be aggressively obsessed by tilting at it.

And as if anything could be more indicative of the hole the record industry finds itself it, and is digging ever larger every day, our luddite bully boy is on the board of the world’s recording industry body (I must tell the story of the time a Blam Blam Blam member asked the president of said body if he had any drugs…but not now), which of course includes the RIAA as it’s largest member. The same body which is accused, on paper, screen, and now in the courts of threatening and bullying behaviour. Gosh…..

As an opinionated aside, looking at Revolver and its subsidiary, the imaginatively named “Heavy Metal Records” (a forthcoming album on the page due for release in Jan 2006!), it’s hard not to want to throw some of the blame for any pain Mr Birch might be feeling back in his A&R face. What an appalling catalogue of shabby dated acts, dodgy live recordings, fallen acts' re-recordings of their hits and the like…and he’s on the board of the IFPI.

It speaks volumes, no?


A day later Andrew found himself explaining basic copyright parameters to Mr Birch


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